Flat Earth: Smoke signals

Just as you thought smokers were becoming an endangered species, hunted to extinction by the antis, a turning-point can be reported from the front where the battle began. Tobacco consumers suffered their first defeat in the air, banned initially by Aeroflot and subsequently by almost all major companies. Now there is almost nowhere to take a puff above 20,000 feet. It is enough to drive a smoker mad - which is exactly what has happened.

With 400 cases of assault reported last year on the world's airlines, attributed to the combined effects of copious alcohol consumption and nicotine withdrawal, Germany's national carrier Lufthansa may be the first to beat a retreat. It is considering lifting its smoking ban on long-haul flights. Perhaps the sight that once confronted a colleague at Heathrow - a woman lighting three cigarettes at once after a non-stop no-smoking flight from Australia - will be a thing of the past.

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